Many questioned why Alex Mack would opt out of a deal with the Cleveland Browns that would have paid him $24 million over the next three seasons.
Now, the answer is readily apparent.
Mack agreed to a five-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday that can become official pending a physical. He will reportedly receive full guarantees on the first two seasons of the deal and more than recoup the $24 million left on the table in Cleveland.
"We knew we needed to add an established presence along our offensive line," said Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff. "Alex is a three-time Pro Bowler and is an ideal scheme fit for our offense. We understand the importance of solidifying the center position and we have been able to do that today. We are pleased to be able to add Alex to our roster and believe he will be an anchor to our line."
Mack, who has 101 career starts, visited with the Browns in February, meeting with new head coach Hue Jackson, director of football operations Sashi Brown and new offensive line coach Hal Hunter. His agent referred to his decision to opt out as "procedural" and the prevailing belief was Mack would be back with the Browns.
Instead, he is expected to reunite with former Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta. Coach Dan Quinn said last month that the focus for his team this offseason was to get much tougher, especially on the line. Mack is considered one of the true tough guys at the position and upgrades the Falcons' line dramatically.
Mack, a first-round pick by Cleveland in 2009, likely will become the highest paid center in the NFL again at $10 million per season.
The 6-foot-4, 311-pound Mack had to make a decision on the opt-out by March 4 with unrestricted free agency beginning March 9. His contract dictated that he could not be tagged with the transition or franchise tag.
--The Falcons also released nose tackle Paul Soliai, signed former Miami Dolphins defensive end Derrick Shelby and agreed to terms with quarterback Matt Schaub, who returns to the franchise that selected him in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft.
Schaub played three seasons for Atlanta, starting two of the 38 games he appeared in and threw for 1,033 yards and six touchdowns. Stuck behind Michael Vick on the depth chart at the time, Schaub was traded to the Houston Texans in 2007 and went on to start 88 of 90 games for the team. Meanwhile, the Falcons turned to Joey Harrington in 2007 while Vick was suspended and ultimately selected Matt Ryan in the first round the following year.
Schaub played in 11 games for the Oakland Raiders in 2014 and started twice for the Baltimore Ravens last season, but has struggled with interceptions and durability - throwing 20 picks against 13 touchdowns in 23 games over the past three years.
Now, Schaub returns to Atlanta to compete for the job as Ryan's backup.
Shelby's four-year deal is worth $21 million with $7.5 million guaranteed, according to agent David Canter. The Falcons are expected to pair him opposite defensive end Vic Beasley.
In four seasons with the Dolphins, Shelby collected 107 tackles, 10 sacks and two interceptions in 63 regular-season games. Last year, he finished with a career-best 38 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks with one interception and two forced fumbles.
Soliai's release was expected, with agent David Canter telling ESPN.com last month that after "positive conversation" with the Falcons regarding a pay cut, the two sides could not agree to terms.
Designated a post-June 1 cut, the Falcons will save $5,437,500 against the 2016 cap as opposed to $2,637,500 by just releasing him now, according to ESPN.
Soliai, 32, was a free agent signing two years ago after coming over from the Miami Dolphins. He signed a five-year, $32 million deal in March 2014 that included $14 million guaranteed and $7 million in a signing bonus. He was due to make a base salary of $5 million in 2016 with a cap number of $6,837,500.
The 6-foot-4, 345-pound Soliai finished with 22 tackles, three tackles for losses and five quarterback hits last season.